Why it matters: 5G will come with many challenges, and telecommunications equipment manufacturer Ericsson and Germany’s largest network provider Deutsche Telekom are well on their way to solving one: expensive backhaul. They’ve successfully demoed a wireless transmission on the mmWave spectrum that can transfer at speeds of 40 Gbps, four times faster than current systems.
The network spanned 1.4 km (0.9 miles) at Deutsche Telekom’s Service Center in Athens, where it could run at 40 Gbps stably with less than 100 ms of latency on the round trip, placing it within 5G’s goals. According to Ericsson, this is an “important milestone” towards 100 Gbps 5G networking.
A backhaul is a connection between the core network and edge network, and it’s essential for 5G because of its range and signal resilience issues. Edge networks are smaller networks attached to the main one, and they include anything from a home network using a 5G router to a shopping mall with microcells that strengthen the signal within the large building.
If 5G were to rely exclusively on a core network with massive cell towers, you’d be able to see several while looking out the window. If 5G had to backhaul to edge networks with fiber optic cables exclusively, it would cost substantially more. Wireless networking systems like what Ericsson is developing are cheaper, faster to deploy and don’t require individual permits.
Ericsson’s goal is to establish 100 Gbps wireless backhaul networks, which would let 5G networks evolve from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps and beyond. Per Narvinger, Head of Product Area Networks at Ericsson said: “Our joint innovation project shows that higher capacity microwave backhaul will be an important enabler of high-quality mobile broadband services when 5G becomes a commercial reality.”
Ericsson has a five-year contract with Deutsche Telekom, which kicked off in December 2017. Ericsson’s senior VP Arun Bansal says that they can deliver a 5G network in that time frame. "We listened to Deutsche Telekom and understood their urgency to have 5G-ready infrastructure in order to stay at the forefront." They'll run 4G on their 5G hardware until it is installed across the entire network, then they'll launch 5G with the flip of a switch sometime in the next few years.